26 February 2013

Tanzania: Prosecution Winds Up in Ponda Case

THE prosecution side closed its evidence yesterday in the trial of Secretary General of the Council of Islamic Organization, Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda and 49 other accused, pending at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in Dar es Salaam.

Senior State Attorney Tumaini Kweka told presiding Resident Magistrate Victoria Nongwa that after fielding 17 witnesses, the prosecution would not wish to call more witnesses to the stand to substantiate the claims against the accused.

In the case, the accused are charged with conspiracy, trespass and criminal possession of property owned by Agritanza Limited on a plot situated at Markaz, Chang'ombe area, in Temeke District.

Other charges, according to the prosecution, include stealing building materials from Agritanza Limited including 1,500 bricks and 36 tonnes of aggregate and iron bars, all worth 59.6m/.

The offences are alleged to have been committed on October 12, last year. Following the prosecution's move, the parties would meet before the magistrate on February 27, to present their oral submissions on whether the accused have a case to answer or not.

If found with a case to answer, the accused would be required to start calling their witnesses in, to dispute the charges preferred against them by the prosecution. Most of the witnesses testified for the prosecution, included alleged owners of the plot in dispute and police detectives who either participated in the arresting of the accused or interrogated them after being apprehended.

In one of the court sessions, a prosecution witness and counsel for the accused locked horns on whether the case against Ponda, a Muslim sheikh and his colleagues, was criminal or civil. While advocates Juma Nassoro and Tahaya Njama, for the accused, claimed that the case had all elements of civil by its nature, the witness, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Ame Anange Anoqie, maintained to the contrary that the matter falls squarely in the criminal ambit.

The heated debate among the lawyers and the witness was fuelled by the latter's testimony in his evidence in chief that the accused forcibly took possession of a plot known as Markaz in Temeke District, while they had no single document to support their action.

However, in cross-examination, the two lawyers, on different occasions, alleged that the police were informed of the aim by the accused going at the area as to rescue Muslim properties, thus the matter should have been referred to any Land Tribunal.

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